Why Choose an American School in Hong Kong?

There are many factors to consider when it comes to choosing an international school, and one is curriculum. We take an in-depth look at American schools in Hong Kong and explore what the US curriculum is, what qualifications your child will leave school with, and what differentiates these American schools from others.
Why Choose an American School in Hong Kong?
By Carli Allan
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What makes these American schools ‘international’?

American schools such as AIS offer a broad curriculum with a strong focus on global citizenship

At a first glance, it’s straightforward to neatly group international schools into UK, US, and IB schools. However, take a closer look and you’ll discover schools that are offering a much more varied and innovative curriculum than you’ll find in your home country.

While these schools are focusing on providing an American education, they also have a very global outlook.

It’s what lies behind the “International” in many school names that is most interesting. Hong Kong schools have the freedom to blend the best aspects of the US curricula with other global educational practices in wellbeing, academia and the arts. They also all teach Mandarin as part of the daily timetable, something that is common across all international schools in Hong Kong; SAIS has recently introduced a bilingual programme and ASHK offers a choice of Chinese pathways.

Karrie Dietz at Stamford says:

"Stamford American School has adapted the US curriculum by adding a daily levelled modern language program consisting of Mandarin and Spanish, and by developing an optional English/Mandarin bilingual program for elementary school students. These opportunities help prepare students to be international citizens in a world that is becoming increasingly globally connected.

"Stamford has also developed a bespoke STEMinn program. Students of all ages develop skills in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Innovation. While STEM is included in the US education, Stamford recognizes innovation as a valued skill for a successful future."

The Harbour School has many creative learning spaces that support its cross-curricular programmes

American schools can be just as focused on global citizenship, innovation and cross-curricular learning as any international school. Concordia’s curriculum is enhanced with a Global Leadership Programme. The Harbour School uses its own marine centre and Foundry makerspace for project-based learning, making sextants using laser-cutters to learn about angles in maths or exploring rock pools to learn marine biology. And ASHK has added the MIT App Inventor programme to its curriculum to help Middle School students "develop apps worth making".

At AIS, students take part in an Outdoor Education and Leadership Programme (OELP) of outdoor activity days and camping; students partner with NGOs around Hong Kong in a Fall From Global to Local programme; and they work with local businesses in the community in an Inspire project. These are not part of any set US curriculum and highlight the school’s innovative approach to education, one that is focused on broadening the curriculum.

Kathy Abel at AIS explains:

“We want our students to have authentic experiences within the real world. Project-based learning is one of our strengths, from Elementary students upcycling fashion during STEAM Week to Middle School students designing seaworthy boats in our swimming pool as part of our Intensives project when they work off the regular timetable.

"We are also very focused on growth rather than grades. We do give grades, but the focus is on spiralling learning so that students do not fall behind; they get individualised instruction, get constant feedback from teachers and peers, self-assess to reflect on their learning, and work collaboratively. As they complete their education, they can see their growth from beginning to end."

AIS Middle School students take part in the school's Outdoor Education and Leadership Programme

Both ASHK and SAIS offer students the option of taking the IB Diploma Programme alongside the US High School Diploma. With more schools offering the IBDP in the US than any other country (it's offered in nearly 1,000 US schools) Karrie at SAIS says that "the curriculums compliment each other so well, and students are well prepared since they have a strong, well-rounded foundation."

Head of School at ASHK, John Jalsevac, says:

“I personally believe that the IBDP is the best university prep programme, in large part because there’s a liberal arts foundation to it. The IB programme is so comprehensive, and offers so much more scope for learning, and opens more doors for children in years to come. By comparison, AP is really just an exam to give you an advance standing."

Next: Will a US education get my child into universities worldwide?

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